Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Four years ago, on a night that became momentous for Albuquerque, the University of New Mexico Lobos gathered stones and slayed the giant on a blue turf.
The UNM football team’s anniversary of its huge, 31-24 upset at Boise State, a 30½-point favorite, was Thursday. It is considered the greatest win in the Bob Davie era, and perhaps even in the program’s history.
Yet, on that day, the Lobos’ remarkable achievement came in overshadowed by another stunning victory from an Albuquerque sports entity. Holly Holm shocked the UFC world with a second-round knockout of Ronda Rousey, a 16-1 favorite, in Melbourne, Australia.
These days, neither Holm nor the Lobos have been able to recapture that type of magic.
Davie, during his press conference on Tuesday, said it would take the Lobos’ best performance of the season to post an upset on Saturday night at Boise State (8-1, 5-0 in the Mountain West Conference). This time, the Broncos are favored by 28 points and enter the nationally televised (ESPN2) game ranked No. 19 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 21 in the College Football Playoff rankings.
While the Lobos’ 2015 win in Boise was a high point of Davie’s rebuilding project, UNM (2-7, 0-5) now travels to the famed blue turf in Albertsons Stadium under extraordinary adversity. Nahje Flowers, a 21-year-old UNM defensive lineman, died unexpectedly on the morning of Nov. 5. The Lobos did not play last Saturday. Their game against Air Force was rescheduled to Nov. 23 due to Flowers’ death.
Davie did not meet with the media after Thursday’s practice. Wednesday, he described that day’s practice as “businesslike.”
He reflected on the Lobos’ 2015 win at Boise State after he was asked what he remembered about that special night.
“It came down to Markel Byrd making that last tackle of the game, which is kind of ironic,” Davie said.
Byrd tragically died that December in a single-car accident when he was traveling home for the holidays.
The Lobos didn’t really do anything “completely out of the ordinary,” to beat the Broncos in 2015, other than dialing up some timely blitzes and executing on some big plays, Davie said.
“I think we played 105 snaps on defense that night, which is an unbelievable amount of snaps to play a game,” Davie said.
Not many players remain on the UNM team from that Lobos’ squad that shocked the Broncos. Redshirt senior middle linebacker Alex Hart, UNM’s three-time team captain, was a true freshman in 2015 and played in the game, as did safety Jake Rothschiller, now a defensive graduate assistant. Defensive back Blair Manly, running back Javohn Jones (out for the season with an injured knee), tight end Erik Beilman and long snapper Beau Hott, all redshirt seniors, were on the roster but did not play. From that coaching staff, running backs coach Apollo Wright, wide receivers coach Scott Baumgartner and tight end coach Clay Davie remain. Graduate assistant Jacob Girgle was on the roster but redshirted.
“It was a special night and a special opportunity to be able to go there and do that,” Hart said after Wednesday’s practice. “Out of every game that I’ve played here, I mean besides the bowl games, that was the one game that I don’t think I will ever forget. Just being able to go up there, what it meant to this program, what it meant to this state to be bowl eligible.
“I know that Holly Holm won the fight against Ronda Rousey that night, too. That was a pretty crazy night for Albuquerque. That game was pretty sweet.”
The Lobos’ unity and “brotherhood” has given the team the strength to carry on during a tumultuous season, Hart said.
“It’s about staying together,” he said of dealing with the adversity. “It’s the fact that we can come here and we have a place where we can all come together and be a family.”
ACADEMIC RECOGNITION: Punter Tyson Dyer and offensive lineman Kyle Stapley, both junior business administration majors, have been named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District teams for District 7. Dyer and Stapley will now advance to the national ballot. The Division I CoSIDA Academic All-America team will be announced on Dec. 9.
To qualify, a student-athlete must have at least a 3.30 cumulative GPA and play in at least half of a teams’ games.
District 7 comprises all Division I institutions in Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma and Texas, totaling over 30 schools.